Birders are a fun, diverse, caring, inclusive, passionate, adventurous, and occasionally wacky group of people. And lucky for you, they’re way easier to ID than the birds they seek. Just look for the badge; whenever you see other people with binoculars, ask if they’ve found anything interesting, and then introduce yourself. Pretty soon, by doing what you enjoy, you’ll get to know the most active birders in your area—and you’ll build a whole new social circle.
If banter with strangers isn’t your thing, don’t fret—here are five other ways for you to find your people.
Go on a bird walk.
Many groups, including most Audubon centers and chapters, offer regular excursions to birding hotspots, led by local experts. Most field trips are geared for beginners and unintimidating, so feel free to ask lots of questions.
Join the club.
Across the country, Audubon includes more than 450 local chapters with hundreds of thousands of active members. These clubs offer meetings, trips, and other ways to get involved. The American Birding Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to recreational birding, also presents numerous opportunities to connect with other birders locally and nationally. Most states have regional ornithological groups, many of which organize regular events, and some cities have their own birding clubs. “Birds and beer” meetups have become popular in many places, like Tucson and Olympia.
Volunteer for the birds.
The Christmas Bird Count, Project FeederWatch, the eBird Global Big Day, Celebrate Urban Birds, and the Breeding Bird Survey are all great ways to meet other birders and make a difference. Citizen science projects like these help document bird populations, and every observation counts! Talk to people in your local birding clubs or skim the Internet for hands-on opportunities, which might include helping at banding stations or raptor counts, monitoring birdhouses, working with youth groups, or aiding with rehabilitation efforts.
Try catfishing (not really).
It’s easier than ever to find your flock in the digital world. Most states have at least one email listserv for reporting sightings and discussing local bird activity, and you can find a full listing of these groups on the American Birding Association’s Birding News digest. Many groups also maintain active Facebook pages. If you’re traveling and want to do a little birding abroad, check out BirdingPal, an international community of local hosts who love to forge new friendships—or sign up and show off your own area to visitors.
Swing by a festival.
Birding festivals have exploded in popularity in the past decade: Hundreds are held each year in North America (and beyond). These range from small, one-day meetups to week-long conventions hosting thousands of birders. Most festivals include field trips, speakers, vendors, and workshops, with after-hours events such as dinners, game shows, activities for kids, concerts, and other entertainment. The Biggest Week in American Birding, held each May in Ohio, and the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, held each November in Texas, are consistently great events. Find a fun festival near you on the American Birding Association’s Birding Festivals Directory.